NVTA TransAction Meeting: A Pro Forma Exercise

Comments at Northern Virginia Transportation Authority Meeting on July 13, 2017.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) has issued a call for public comment on TransAction, a draft list of transportation projects to be funded in Northern Virginia for the next six years.

With both population and employment in Northern Virginia expected to increase dramatically between now and 2040, NVTA has certainly made the case for substantial increases in the region’s investment in transportation infrastructure. I am nevertheless concerned about NVTA’s lack of transparency.

The NVTA project list describes more than 350 projects that qualify for funding, and the accompanying report indicates that each project has been objectively scored according to criteria specified in HB 599, adopted by the General Assembly in 2012 to prioritize transportation projects.

The overall scores assigned to sectors within 11 major travel corridors are there. Yet no score or cost information is available for the individual projects. Thus it is impossible to make informed decisions about which projects to fund from the information provided.

This should be of particular concern to Arlington officials for two reasons:

  1. The report itself indicates that most of the projects are roadway projects—239 roadway projects pegged at $20 billion and 99 transit projects pegged at $24.2 billion (p. 5). Absent a project level cost/benefit breakdown, the public can only speculate that less than optimal roadway projects will get priority over transit, because the cost of each individual roadway project is on average less. This could delay the most effective transit projects—including those targeted for Arlington County–indefinitely.
  2. The roadway projects along the I-66 (Segment 6) and I-395 corridors (Segment 8) are likely to dump more traffic in Arlington and DC. as 74 of the projects on the I-66 corridor are roadway and 55 are transit.

In any case, the public has been asked to weigh on a plan without the information needed to comment intelligently. Thus public comment on TransAction is nothing more than an a pro forma exercise required by law with no real purpose or effect.

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